Childishly Easy – An Open Response to Charles

Childishly Easy – An Open Response to Charles

This article is in response to Charles Soper’s comments:

http://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2014/11/09/excerpt-from-a-written-debate-with-dr-brown-3/#comment-15693

http://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2014/11/09/excerpt-from-a-written-debate-with-dr-brown-3/#comment-15735

http://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2014/11/09/excerpt-from-a-written-debate-with-dr-brown-3/#comment-15897

Charles

You define the “watershed” between us as a debate about God’s nature. Your assessment has no basis in reality. At no point in the Bible is idolatry defined as an incorrect belief about God’s nature. Idolatry is not about beliefs, it is about worship.

The Bible is very clear when it comes to worship. The Bible reports that God did not rely on a book to teach His people who it is that they ought to worship. The Bible also reports that God did not rely on a prophet to teach His people who it is that they ought to worship. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that God did not rely on these two mediums (the book and the prophet) to teach His people who it is that they ought not to worship.

The Bible reports that God imparted this lesson to Israel Himself. The Bible also reports that God appointed the living people of Israel to pass on this central message to the future generations of His covenant nation.

The teaching that God imparted to our ancestors, as our ancestors preserved that teaching and as the Bible affirms, does not allow us to direct our hearts toward one who walked God’s earth and breathed His air. The teaching that God imparted to us makes no exceptions. No “belief” can redefine an act of idolatry.

It is that simple.

P.S. – I have taken the trouble to articulate my beliefs. Please read what I have written on this subject in order to learn what I believe. Do not quote books to which I attribute no authority (such as Jewish Encyclopedia) assuming that they describe my beliefs.

Posted in Correspondence, The Ultimate Truth | Leave a comment

Jacob’s Vow

Jacob’s Vow

Genesis 28 describes how Jacob left the home of his parents to escape the wrath of his brother. The Torah tells us that as he slept at “the place” God granted him an encouraging vision. God promised that He would give Jacob the land of Israel, that He would bless him and that He would protect him until he returns home. Upon awaking Jacob dedicates a monument to God and he makes a vow. Jacob promises that if God will protect him and sustain him that he would make this monument into a house for God.

When King David sought to build the Temple he speaks of his search as “seeking a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob” (Psalm 132:5). The Temple itself is called “the pride of Jacob” (Psalm 47:5). There seems to be a deep connection between the Temple and Jacob’s vow. Why is it that from the three patriarchs it was Jacob that established the place of the Temple? And why was it this particular time in Jacob’s life that was appropriate for the dedication of the Temple?

This point in the history of the patriarchs must have been the most extreme time of vulnerability, helplessness and loneliness. Jacob describes his own situation with the words “but with my stick did I cross this Jordan” (Genesis 32:11). This was the time of Jacob’s deepest poverty and helplessness.

The vow that Jacob took was not simply dedicating a place. It was dedicating a frame of mind. Jacob realized that the recognition of his helplessness was the gateway to God. His promise was not merely to establish the future site for the Temple. Jacob was promising God that when he eventually builds a Temple it will be on the foundation of this complete understanding and recognition of absolute helplessness before God.

When the nation of Israel flowed to the Temple to serve God they were coming back to that place of helplessness. They returned to the recognition that we are completely and totally dependent on God and that nothing on earth can give us strength. The pride of Jacob is the ability to recognize that we possess nothing in front of God and it is from the recognition of the full weight of this truth that we can build a house for God.

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Intercession

Intercession

Abraham’s intercession for the people of Sodom (Genesis 18:23-33) must rank as one of the more enigmatic passages in Scripture. The people of Sodom were the epitome of cruelty and wickedness while Abraham was kind and righteous. Why would he pray for the preservation of such wickedness?

Our sages compounded the enigma when they taught that God chose Abraham precisely because of this prayer. The rabbis expounded on Psalm 45:8. “You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore has God, your God, anointed you with oil of joy from among your peers.” The Sages of Israel read these words as if God were addressing Abraham; “You have loved to justify my creations and you have hated to render them guilty it is for this reason that I from all the generations since Noah that I chose to speak to you.” According to this reading, it was Abraham’s prayer on behalf of the Sodomites that set him apart from his peers.

The Torah itself leads us in the direction of this rabbinic teaching. The Torah introduces Abraham’s intercession for the people of Sodom with a reminder of the fact that Abraham was chosen by God (Genesis 18:17-19). The Torah is telling us that God’s blessing to Abraham is somehow related to the episode of Abraham praying on behalf of the wicked. How are these two concepts related to each other? And why did Abraham pray for the preservation of these cruel and unrighteous people?

It is clear and obvious that Abraham was not looking forward to the perpetuation of Sodom’s evil way of life. If Abraham was praying for the survival of the people of Sodom then he must have been thinking of their repentance. When Abraham appeals to God to spare Sodom for the sake of ten righteous people Abraham is arguing that these ten righteous people will eventually turn Sodom around. Abraham’s prayer is a belief in the power of good to prevail over evil. And Abraham’s prayer reflects a deep faith in the essential goodness of man that was created in God’s image.

This is not to say that Abraham was naïve. This is not to say that Abraham did not appreciate the depth of the Sodomite evil. The Torah teaches us that Abraham could not even tolerate possessing a shoelace from Sodom (Genesis 14:22,23). Abraham’s righteous soul recoiled from the wickedness of the Sodomites but this did not prevent Abraham from seeing them as God’s creations.

When Abraham saw the wickedness of the people of Sodom he saw people who were not being true to themselves. Since these people were God’s creations Abraham believed that God’s goodness must be an inherent part of them. And if they are exposed to ten righteous people then there is hope for their return to God.

Abraham’s belief in the inherent goodness of God’s creations and his belief that righteousness will ultimately prevail over evil is what made him the father of God’s chosen nation. God’s plan for His nation is that they carry the torch of righteousness through the corridors of history and in this way, bring the hearts of men back to God. When God was looking for a man to father this nation He was looking for someone who believed in His plan. And it was Abraham’s prayer on behalf of the people of Sodom that showed God that this was His man.

Posted in Basic | 45 Comments

Excerpt from a Written Debate with Dr. Brown

Excerpt from a Written Debate with Dr. Brown

This debate took place on the comment section of Dr. Brown’s Line of Fire radio website – November 3 2011.

431.        yisroel blumenthal

December 22nd, 2011 @ 11:07 am

Sheila and Dr. Brown

I am jumping ahead now to posts # 426, 427 and 428 because you are telling me that they touch the heart of the matter.

Exodus 24:10 was NOT part of the Sinai revelation in the sense of teaching Israel who it is that they are to worship.

In response to your next point – of-course the God of Sinai is the same as the God of Genesis 18, Exodus 24 and the God of the rest of the Tanach – there is only one God. When God appears to His prophets – however it is that He chooses to appear to them – they know that they are talking with the Master of all creation – that is what we call prophecy – when one KNOWS that he or she is talking with the Master of all creation. They did not need to run to their Bibles and try to figure out who they are talking to.

When people saw Jesus – they just saw a man (see your own comments in post #264)

The key here is that we learned at Sinai – what our fathers Abraham Isaac and Jacob knew before us that everything that happens here on earth is a gift from the all-powerful God who is above every form of existence that we can fathom – to point to the qualities (in this case the spiritual qualities of selflessness) of an inhabitant of this earth as emanating directly from God is to confuse the Ultimate Giver with one of His beneficiaries.

432.        yisroel blumenthal

December 22nd, 2011 @ 11:25 am

To all of you who are seeking to reach clarity through this discussion on the issue of idolatry.

- I see the Christian veneration of Jesus as the very act of idolatry prohibited by our covenant with God. Some of you differ with my conclusion. I am getting very mixed messages as to WHY you differ with my conclusion.

To clarify – let me break the act of worship into its two component parts:

There is a verb –

“worship”

there is a noun –

“object of worship”

In order to tell me that veneration of Jesus is not idolatry – you can say – the verb doesn’t apply here – in other words – what Christians do towards Jesus doesn’t qualify as worship.

You could argue that the noun doesn’t apply here – in other words – the object of worship – is not the object that is prohibited by our covenant with God.

There is a third argument that could be used and that is – that although the verb and the noun both apply – for some reason – worship of Jesus is an exception to the rule.

To clarify further. If God would have said – don’t press any button – and I think that you are encouraging me to press a button. You could tell me that what you are asking me to do is not “pressing” – you could tell me that the thing you are asking me to press is not a “button” – or you could tell me that although this does qualify as “pressing a button” – but this button is wired differently so it is OK to press this particular button.

Now

Since I think you all acknowledge – that if the veneration that Christians direct toward Jesus would be directed to any other human being – you would all acknowledge that that would qualify as an act of idolatry.

This being the case (and please correct me if I am wrong) – then we can move the discussion away from the verb and the noun. In other words – this is an act of worship and this is an object that is prohibited. The only answer that you are left with – is the third one – that this particular man was wired differently than all the rest of them so the prohibition doesn’t apply.

The problem with your answer is that at Sinai – God gave us a tour of the wiring of creation – and all of it is wired just the same. Deuteronomy 4:35 doesn’t just say that we were shown who God is – it also says that we were shown who God isn’t “there is NONE else”

I hope this makes things clear – I look forward to your responses.

433.        yisroel blumenthal

December 22nd, 2011 @ 11:27 am

One more attempt at reaching clarity

At Sinai we were taught to differentiate between Master and subject – between Giver and recipients.

We were taught that God is the ultimate Master and Giver (thus deserving of worship)- while everything else is subject and recipient (thus not deserving of worship).

When we see a man – and that is what we saw when we saw Jesus – we saw subject and recipient – did you see anything different?

435.        Dr Michael L Brown

December 22nd, 2011 @ 11:30 am

Rabbi Blumenthal, you wrote, “When people saw Jesus – they just saw a man (see your own comments in post #264).” Absolutely not. When did I ever say that people (meaning his followers in particular) saw “just a man”?

454.        yisroel blumenthal

December 23rd, 2011 @ 10:06 am

Dr. Brown

In response to #435 – In post # 364 (I mistakenly wrote 264 before – the first digit is cut off from the screen so I had to guess which hundred we were holding in) you wrote “there was not a full revelation of Yeshua’s deity to his followers until after His resurrection”

So what did they see before his resurrection – if it was not “just a man”? – and don’t you believe that he was “fully human”?

456.        yisroel blumenthal

December 23rd, 2011 @ 10:18 am

To all of you – some more clarification

A repeated refrain is that I don’t understand what you believe. (I happen to disagree with that assessment – but I will not take it up here).

Worship is not a “belief”. Worship is something you do – not something you believe. Beliefs explain worship and attempt to justify it – but that is not worship.

I know what you do. You will acknowledge that whatever it is that you do towards Yeshua – if it were to be done towards anyone else would qualify as idolatry.

You now present your beliefs to justify this particular worship.

According to what we were taught at Sinai – no “belief” can justify this worship.

457.        yisroel blumenthal

December 23rd, 2011 @ 10:25 am

Some more clarification

Allow me to explain the position of Tanach in relation to Sinai.

At Sinai God sealed a covenant with us – we were married to Him there. This was open and direct between us and God. Those who witnessed it did not need to know how to read in order to understand it neither did they have to be Bible scholars – everyone understood it and God went out of His way so to speak so that we can KNOW. The Tanach was given to us in the context of this covenant.

If you point to a passage in Tanach or even to many passages in Tanach – to support an argument that we violate the covenant as we understood it at Sinai – you have thus removed the Tanach from its covenantal context. I don’t need to examine the passage to see that you are making a mistake. The very context of the book tells me that.

458.        yisroel blumenthal

December 23rd, 2011 @ 10:29 am

One more clarification

I don’t see Tanach encouraging me to try to understand the theologies of those who worship idols. The prophets ridicule the worship of idols in the most crude way. I know that idol worshipers (who we both identify as idol worshipers) had very sophisticated beliefs about their worship – “the statue is representing…” – but that is the point – if it could be represented by a statue – and anything between heaven and earth could be represented by a statue – then it is idolatry – giving to the subject and taker that which only the Master and the Ultimate Giver deserve.

460.        Dr Michael L Brown

December 23rd, 2011 @ 11:11 am

Rabbi Blumenthal,

Thanks for your attempts at clarification. I certainly understand what you believe (and am convinced it is wrong, based on the Tanakh itself), and I reiterate that you still don’t understand what we believe and that until you do, we will be like ships passing in the night. Since I genuinely believe you want true dialogue, I urge you to do what I have repeatedly encouraged you to do. Understand our point of view to the point that you could argue it yourself, then critique it (if you still feel the need to).

Otherwise, to say it once more, we will be like ships passing in the night, although I still believe that our prayers for you and the patient sharing of the truth here by Sheila and Dan1el and others will open your heart.

462.        Dr Michael L Brown

December 23rd, 2011 @ 11:20 am

Rabbi Blumenthal,

Because of the many posts here, I’ll quote yours in full first:

“In response to #435 – In post # 364 (I mistakenly wrote 264 before – the first digit is cut off from the screen so I had to guess which hundred we were holding in) you wrote ‘there was not a full revelation of Yeshua’s deity to his followers until after His resurrection.’

So what did they see before his resurrection – if it was not ‘just a man’? – and don’t you believe that he was ‘fully human’?”

Again, this illustrates clearly that you’re still missing our points here. Yeshua’s disciples absolutely recognized Him to be the Son of God and professed it on several occasions, and they certainly believed Him to be a human being as well, hence the Son of God here in the flesh. But the dimensions of what it meant to be Son of God were not fully revealed to them until after His resurrection.

And I remind you that the New Testament is very careful about the language used. It is “the Word” who became flesh, not “God” who became flesh, since the latter could readily be misunderstood. And this Word was God and yet was with God.

You constantly make reference to Sinai, and I concur. I worship the God of Sinai — and the God of the entire Bible, of course — and what did God say at Sinai? Don’t make a graven image of Him. Don’t make any earthly likeness of Him, since we saw no form when He spoke at Sinai. Amen and amen, a thousand times over. We agree!

So, what then is the problem? It’s that you don’t accept aspects of God’s revelation in His Messiah and we do, and you know that I believe the Tanakh supports the teaching that the Messiah will be divine.

The one and only God, who sits enthroned in heaven, whose glory fills the universe, whose Spirit works among us even now, whose unity is complex, at times visits us here on earth in bodily form through His Word/Son, and He did it most permanently in Yeshua. The Tanakh prepares the way for this, and I will not sin against God and reject Him and His witness. Sinai affirms this to me.

466.        yisroel blumenthal

December 23rd, 2011 @ 1:58 pm

Dr. Brown, Dan1el and Sheila

I want to preface my words with my deep appreciation for your efforts and your patience in this dialogue – thank you.

I will try to respond to the last few points you raised.

Isaiah 53:1 reads “upon whom is the arm of the Lord revealed” – the arm of the Lord is revealed on behalf of the servant – the arm of the Lord is not the servant himself.

Micah 5:1 refers to God’s plan to bring the Messiah – which preceded the creation of the world. the origin of the Messiah is God’s plan and purpose concerning the redemption of the world.

What God said at Sinai – I should say what He showed us at Siani was that He alone is God. Teh prohibition against making an image is the natural result of that teaching.

When you say “fully divine and fully human” (I got that from the FIRE statement of faith) – in light of Sinai what you are saying is that he is fully worthy of all worship and fully not worthy of any worship – I should word that more strongly – One who intrinsically all worship is owed to – and one who, by very definition, owes worship with every fiber of his existence.

In order to say that one can be human and still worthy of worship – you have to mitigate the fact that – by definition – a human owes worship and cannot be worthy of worship.

The lesson of Sinai is that everything – everything between heaven and earth owes worship to the One above and beyond heaven and earth. And “everything” includes Jesus.

Do you not believe that when Jesus was on earth – that he owed worship to God the Father?

And if you deny that he did – then you are saying that the fact that someone walks on God’s earth under God’s heaven doesn’t intrinsically owe worship to the Creator of heaven and earth – you might as well make a statue.

469.        Dr Michael L Brown

December 23rd, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

Rabbi Blumenthal,

Thanks for your patience and perseverance as well.

You ask, “Do you not believe that when Jesus was on earth – that he owed worship to God the Father?”

Yes I do, which is part of the mystery of the Incarnation and part of the reality of the divine Word pitching His tent among us.

It is the eternal Son, God Himself, we worship.

501.        yisroel blumenthal

December 25th, 2011 @ 9:02 am

Dr. Brown

You say you are worshiping the eternal son – God himself.

You are confusing worship and belief.

The worship you are encouraging is the worship of the central character in the Gospel stories – worship of a man.

You believe that this man is “eternal son God Himself” – that is a belief you have which you append on to your worship. This belief could technically be appended on to any of God’s creations. At Sinai we were taught that worship of any of His creations is idolatry – no matter what the belief.

Your appeal to “mystery” is anti-Scriptural. When it comes to idolatry and who it is that we are to worship; God appeals to our logic and even to our sense of humor to help us see the futility of worshiping one who walked God’s earth and breathed God’s air.

502.        yisroel blumenthal

December 25th, 2011 @ 9:10 am

Dr. Brown

To clarify further.

You don’t encourage worship of half of Jesus’ personality.

Furthermore – your points about “we don’t worship the flesh” are irrelevant. Allow me to remind you of a commentary that you gave to Isaiah 40:6 in volume 5 – when the prophet points out that all flesh is ephemeral you comment – “this includes the most favored and exalted human beings” – I understand that you were not limiting your comment to the flesh of the people – but to their personality as well. The prophet calls a personality that is tied to flesh – by the term “flesh” – without distinction. – this includes the most favored and exalted human beings – including Jesus.

504.        Dr Michael L Brown

December 25th, 2011 @ 9:29 am

Rabbi Blumenthal,

I find this interaction truly remarkable, and the more you post, the more it proves my point: You fail to understand my beliefs and we continue to be like ships passing in the night. Again, I do not resist nor will I avoid ongoing interaction, as time permits, but this is ultimately a spiritual issue.

To simplify:

1) The God of the Scriptures is complex in His unity, sitting enthroned in heaven, filling the universe, touching us by His Spirit, and sometimes appearing in our midst. We speak of this as God’s tri-unity, and this is the God we worship.

2) This glorious God — the one and only God — commanded us not to make any graven image of Him, and we affirm this to the core of our being.

3) When He spoke to us at Sinai, He did not appear in any form (although in Scripture others saw His form), and that underscored the command not to make a graven image or worship Him in any form. Again, we totally affirm this.

4) In the person of Yeshua — who was not a mere mortal — God’s Word/Son pitched His tent among us, while the Father remained enthroned in heaven. (Think in terms of the sephirot and at least you will get in the right direction, although the truth is far more glorious.) As He had appeared in the Tanakh (as in Gen 18, to Abraham, in human flesh), so He appeared now in the person of Yeshua, except in a totally unique and glorious way. But we say emphatically that God is not a man!

5) Just as there are many aspects of God’s nature that are beyond us — because He is God, not man — His manifestation in our midst through Yeshua is beyond us, but we fully accept it as true, scriptural, and glorious, without the slightest possibility of anything idolatrous in any way, shape, size, or form. Again, with each new post you add, as sincerely as you are trying to prove a point, you underscore the fact that you do not understand what we believe. You could easily say I don’t understand what you believe — although I differ, I accept you saying this — but the more you accuse us of idolatry, the more you shout to us, “I don’t see and I don’t understand what the Scriptures really say!” (Again, you might say the same thing to me, which is fine. It just underscores that this is more a spiritual battle than an intellectual one.)

I leave you with this quote from the midrash to Psalm 91 it is written, “At [the moment that Moses finished building the Tabernacle], a great question arose: How could a Tabernacle with walls and curtains contain the Presence of the Almighty? The Master of the Universe Himself explained, ‘The entire world cannot contain My glory, yet when I wish, I can concentrate My entire essence into one small spot. Indeed, I am Most High, yet I sit in a [limited, constricted] refuge – in the shadow of the Tabernacle.’” Amen!

508.        Dr Michael L Brown

December 25th, 2011 @ 9:51 am

Rabbi Blumenthal,

With regard to “flesh,” even there, Yeshua was different in that he did not have sinful flesh, but even to address this point of yours in any depth is to once again, get us completely off topic, since you continue to miss the point. My question remains what it has been for years: When God makes His truth known to you, will you have the courage to follow Him?

513.        yisroel blumenthal

December 25th, 2011 @ 10:33 am

Dr. Brown

You keep on reiterating that I do not understand what you believe.

First of all – you acknowledge that YOU don’t understand what you believe – to use your words “His manifestation in our midst through Yeshua is beyond us”. If it is beyond you – what do you want from me?

I may not understand your belief – but I understand your worship. After all – you are encouraging people to worship as yourself – so this is not some personal mystery between you and yourself – this is out in the public. You are encouraging people to bend their hearts towards the central character in the Gospel stories. Did I get it wrong? Is that not what you are encouraging?

In order to justify this worship – you present a certain theology – a belief. We were taught at Sinai that this worship is prohibited – and that no “belief” can justify it.

Furthermore – your magnet analogy fails. If all worship of Yeshua is a just a means to achieve a greater good and not an end in and of itself – you would not attempt to influence people who already worship the One Creator of heaven and earth. The fact that you try to influence people who already worship the One Creator of heaven and earth testifies most loudly that worship of Yeshua is NOT merely a path to lead one to worship of God.

514.        yisroel blumenthal

December 25th, 2011 @ 10:39 am

Dr. Brown

How would you know that I do not understand your belief? Is it because I disagree with you? Do you notice that I am not commenting on your belief but on your worship?

I personally believe that if the truth of God’s sovereignty would be more clear to me – then my words would reflect that clarity and you would see the light. If my words do not convey that clarity – I see it as an indication that I need to get greater clarity and submit myself more deeply to the absolute sovereignty of God. My prayer is that my inadequacy not stand in the way of articulating His truth with which we – the Jewish people – were entrusted (Deuteronomy 4:35, Isaiah 43:10)

515.        Dr Michael L Brown

December 25th, 2011 @ 10:41 am

Rabbi Blumenthal,

Do you understand what you believe? You would say Yes. Is God greater than anything you can understand? You would say Yes again. The same with me.

I honestly don’t know if you’re trying to score a polemical point here (ill conceived, and, I would think, beneath you), or if you’re simply unwilling to hear me when I state that you don’t understand our beliefs and our worship. Either way, posts like this are utterly futile — except for reminding us of the need to pray for you more.

With all my heart, I want you to recognize Yeshua as our Messiah and King. When you do, your life will be radically transformed to the glory of God.

518.        Dr Michael L Brown

December 25th, 2011 @ 10:50 am

Rabbi Blumenthal,

As we bring this part of our discussion to a close, you ask, “How would you know that I do not understand your belief? Is it because I disagree with you? Do you notice that I am not commenting on your belief but on your worship?”

I would know that you understand my belief/worship by asking questions that applied to my belief/worship and not asking questions that do not apply to my belief/worship. I am not faulting you for failing to do so; I am simply saying it underscores a point I have made repeatedly here, namely, that this is a spiritual battle more than an intellectual one.

Please also notice that in hundreds of other posts and emails that we have exchanged — even in this thread — I do not commonly say to you, “You don’t understand what I believe.” That should say something to you as well.

519.        yisroel blumenthal

December 25th, 2011 @ 10:53 am

Dr. Brown

The point I was trying to make is that beliefs about God by very definition are mysterious. I labor to understand as much of your belief as you do – and your statements to the effect that I don’t understand you don’t convince me that I don’t understand you. The fact that you quote the words of men (midrash) who considered your worship the deepest violation of Israel’s covenant with God – is an indication to me that you do not understand what I believe – but this is NOT a discussion about belief. It is a discussion about worship. Do you not see the difference between the two? Do you think that I don’t understand your worship?

520.        Dr Michael L Brown

December 25th, 2011 @ 11:00 am

Rabbi Blumenthal, yes, absolutely, I think you don’t understand my worship, otherwise you would not be raising the questions you do or even arguing that anything spoken at Sinai contradicts my worship of God in any way. Once more, I don’t fault you for this, but I must reply honestly.

521.        yisroel blumenthal

December 25th, 2011 @ 11:04 am

Dr. Brown

So my question as to whether Jesus is or isn’t a subject of God – is irrelevant?

My question (which you haven’t answered) asking if you acknowledge the distinction between belief and worship is irrelevant?

My question from Isaiah 40:6 is that also irrelevant?

What questions do you want me to ask?

What questions would YOU ask if someone were to point to a person – not Jesus but someone else – and try to convince you to worship that person because he is the Eternal son of God who is not mere mortal and is sinless and is the Word come in the flesh. Would you not ask the very same questions I am asking you?

522.        Dr Michael L Brown

December 25th, 2011 @ 11:15 am

Rabbi Blumenthal,

Start with God being a tri-unity and we proceed from there, and start with taking all the evidence of the Tanakh seriously, including prophecies of a divine Messiah. (Of course, you differ with me here, but at least start with these presuppositions on my part, based on Tanakh.) That alone changes the whole nature of your question to me, namely, “What questions would YOU ask if someone were to point to a person – not Jesus but someone else – and try to convince you to worship that person because he is the Eternal son of God who is not mere mortal and is sinless and is the Word come in the flesh. Would you not ask the very same questions I am asking you?”

Certainly not. We have the Tanakh in common and we debate that. That would not apply in your other scenario.

In any case, how does re-posting the same questions (that missed the point the first time around) prove that you understand my worship?

Yes, there is a difference between worship and belief. What have I not answered there?

I have no problem with others here continuing to interact with you on these points, but again, this has taken the thread far off topic for scores of posts here, and, as I stated over and again, we are like ships passing in the night on this issue, and time (and wisdom) does not permit me to go around and around on this point here.

Posted in Uncategorized | 160 Comments

Annelise on Monotheism

Annelise on Monotheism

The wisdom of Judaism stands out among other religions, proclaiming that the soul owes its allegiance not to any finite thing, but to the Maker of all things and powers. Nothing in the world owes its existence to itself or is truly independent of a cause. Not the life-sustaining sun or rain, and not the frightening storms or threat of war; not love, not fertility, not speed, strength, nor death. Everything is part of a system, each part is limited to its place, and the world is sustained by the true Power of Powers, the Giver who holds it all together. Why should we subjugate ourselves to forces and objects that are, like us, fully dependent on Him? Only He deserves our hearts, and we should look to Him first when seeking wisdom and the path that leads upward in this world.

This is very different from monolatry, the worship of one ‘god’ among the many powers. Instead, this is the surrender of all finite things to the One above even mystery and all limited existence themselves. It is thankfulness of the heart towards the only One who gives, but doesn’t have any need or impulse to take.

Other faiths have come to the same conclusion, not just Judaism, and they share in this wisdom. Some call the Creator of everything the ‘great spirit’, ‘supreme being’, or ‘highest power’. They are on the right track. But where Judaism stands out even further in its resplendent wisdom is the refusal to worship God in a ‘form’. Sure, the Jewish scriptures and traditions have many metaphors, where God is considered a king, a father, a craftsman, a shepherd. There are many manifestations too, in fire, cloud, voice, thunder, light, angels (messengers), and the holiness of places; in the splendour of creation, in the righteous experiences of humans on His path, and in blessings for His people. “God is with us” is a phrase that describes the Jewish experience well, and many places, things, beings, actions, and times have been vessels of His presence in the world. Even the continued existence of every thing and moment declares His immanent nearness. But none of these is more than a vessel to know Him through

No representation is perfect; no finite, limited thing gives more than a glimpse of His ways. In the earth, sky, and sea, we are all servants. This is the beautiful thing, the sign of wisdom that is held by this nation through history. In Judaism, the heart is directed to its Maker with no images, no things, no fragments of reality in the way. Just many pathways to know Him within.

The New Testament tries to use similar imagery to describe Jesus as ‘the way’ to God. He is called a reflection, a manifestation of God’s glory, likened to the creative ‘word’ and ‘wisdom’ of God. But this is not how most of his followers, throughout the many centuries since he lived, have looked at him. They speak to him not merely as one of many channels to knowing God, and not just as a messenger or representation of God, just like the many other blessings of God’s presence that are around us each day. They don’t even speak to him as if he were the most perfect reflection amidst all created things, but still being God’s servant and handiwork. Instead, they speak to Jesus personally when they want to pray to their Creator. They nuance it with words and phrases like ‘son’, ‘servant’, ‘in the name of’, and ‘through him’, but still tend to call it heresy to say that his soul (like our own, and like all of the vessels of God’s manifest glory), is not from eternity and deserves none of our highest praise. Yet they see it in the particular, with shape and relationship; that is, finiteness.

This is hardly what you could call ‘very Jewish’. It is totally oblivious to one of the lights of the Jewish faith, amidst all the forms of monotheism that believe that finite forms can adequately represent in their being the one who holds all things. True Judaism emphasises that His presence is in words, in messengers, in ways, and in showered blessings, but turns the heart away from visible or comprehensible (that is, finite) things when it comes to prayer. This is why the prophets spoke as they did about how He is above the earth; all the powers are His messengers and servants; every thing owes praise to Him, inherently.

The real Jewish perspective is to see the God who made all things being present in small things and places, but not worship the places themselves.

When speaking of ‘trinity’ or of ‘multiplicity in God’, mainstream Christianity has said that Jesus is distinct from the Father and yet not distinct. Is that the same as saying he is infinite, yet finite? In any case, the blurring of this line is serious: it is the definition of the most precious relationship in the world, and anyone on our side of the line doesn’t deserve our embrace. Anything that is ‘partly’ or ‘mostly’ mystery is not true mystery at all, but it is unavoidably an imposition of visible (limited) forms into God who made it all. Isn’t He closest to us Above All Things in His loving sustenance of our existence and our hearts? This is above the forms that our imaginations, or ANY comprehension, can begin to hold or even speak of.

There have been some Christians who disagreed with the mainstream and who have seen Jesus as the prince over creation, even the first or highest created being, through whom everything was made, or else merely a man who has been exalted to the highest level… but not, himself, God. They read certain verses of the New Testament differently. But history has shown that their theory is also unlikely. What messiah ends up being an object of idolatry by most of his followers for thousands of years? And where has the Torah observant remnant been all along; with this man, or with the things passed down from generation to generation before he was born? When the desire to follow a man as the highest authority in creation overshadows the good sense of seeing where the Torah-careful have always been treading without him, that threatens distraction from the paths of wisdom. And the New Testament itself isn’t guiltless, either, even if it never deifies its leader. The pedestal he is put on overshadows all else, until the presence of God in this generation, in every drop of blessing around us, is lost in the light of ‘he was here’ and ‘he is coming back’.

Whether your prayers are directed to the form of a human face or the finite aspects of a man’s soul, or whether his praise simply fills your prayers as ‘a way through which to God’, this is not the sort of humble fading-into-the-background that we expect of a servant or a vessel of God’s glory. The beautiful thing is when the heart can be free to fly to its Maker beyond all forms. All forms are limited things, and none will truly represent Him to our souls or eyes or minds…

So look through them by all means, but look beyond them all. That is the Jewish way.

Posted in Annelise, The Ultimate Truth | 2 Comments

Another Response to Concerned Reader

Another Response to Concerned Reader

Concerned Reader

In response to comment – http://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2014/10/19/open-response-to-charles/#comment-15517

The purpose of this response is to remind you that you were already called out on your distractions.

Idolatry is not defined by abstract philosophy – at least not according to the standards of the Jewish Bible that Jesus accepted as valid. Idolatry is a sin of the heart – who is your heart directed to? Not – how do I define what my heart is directed to? According to this definition Islam is not idolatry while Christianity (including Mormonism) is. But this is a distraction because this is not how Mohammed came into the discussion. It was you who set a criterion for validating prophecy and according to your own criteria you would have to accept Mohammed. Your words about idolatry are simply a smokescreen. Will you acknowledge that explosion of a movement does not validate a prophecy? Or will you continue throwing up smokescreens and avoiding the truth?

Your claim that ancient rabbis held the same beliefs as the Christians do concerning the various manifestations of God is another distraction. I have responded to this argument many times over but I will still recap. Idolatry is not about belief it is about the act of worship. Worshiping a man who operated in the confines of nature and calling him invisible, omnipotent, omniscient, an incarnation of the God of Israel and the Creator of the universe is still idolatry, while worship of the One Being who is above and beyond all of nature is not idolatry even if you mistakenly believe that he has a body.

The fact that Jesus spoke about God and claimed the authority of God is a distraction because the worship that Jesus demanded was to himself.

Your argument about the angels ferrying prayers to God is also a distraction because we don’t accuse Christianity of idolatry because they see Jesus as one who ferries prayers but because Christians see Jesus as an object of worship.

In response to your accusation of applying double standard. I responded to this in my previous post but I will still attempt to clarify. You are comparing the claims of Jesus to the claims of Judaism – this is invalid. Jesus is the root of Christianity and Judaism is the result of having accepted Moses’ claims.

The root of Christianity is faulty. Those who heard Jesus’ attempt to establish his claim according to the standard that Jesus set for himself should have rejected his claim. Their decision to accept it was not based on honesty according to their own version of the story. Those who accepted the claims of Moses were not accepting a claim that contradicts itself. There is nothing inherently dishonest about the original acceptance of Judaism. The acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah of Judaism is an exercise in self-contradiction and this according to the testimony of those who accepted him.

Posted in Uncategorized | 38 Comments

Response to Concerned Reader

Response to Concerned Reader

Concerned Reader

This letter is in response to your recent comment – http://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2014/10/19/open-response-to-charles/#comment-15505

In this comment of yours you present some arguments in favor of the Christian faith and you accuse Jewish critics of Christianity of intellectual dishonesty.

All of your arguments have been already been refuted in the course of our discussion but it seems that you have forgotten that which is convenient for you to forget. Allow me to refresh your memory.

The Bible never says to kill the followers of a false prophet.

The Bible never says that the test of a true prophet is the survival of his movement.

If you believe that the movement of all false prophets in history ceased with their death then you must believe that Mohammed and Joseph Smith are true prophets.

If you believe that the movement of Jesus “exploded” then you must believe that the leaders of the Churches that followed Jesus gave legitimate expression to the movement that Jesus established. These leaders spoke of a deep hatred of the Jewish people, God’s firstborn son. These leaders poured the fuel that burned 6,000, 000 innocents in just five years. This is to say nothing of the countless others who died by the darkness of their “light”. Is this the “explosion” that you so proudly look up to? Is this the sign of the “true prophet”?

Now for what you see as our intellectual dishonesty in demanding one standard of evidence for you and allowing ourselves a completely different standard.

In order to make this accusation of intellectual dishonesty you compare Jesus’ claims and the claims of all of Judaism. The more relevant parallel would be to compare Jesus to Moses. Jesus damns those who don’t believe his words and he teaches mankind that those who don’t believe him are spiritually defective. Moses had God confirm his mission as redeemer (Exodus 14:31) and as prophet (Exodus 19:9). If you are looking for a parallel to the testimony of the Jewish community as a whole you would need to look at the testimony of the Christian community as a whole and the two are as far apart as night is from day. One of these communities is passing on what they received from their biological ancestors while the other is passing on a message that their ancestors heard from traveling missionaries. One believes that their message is so self-evidently true that anyone who disagrees with them is forever damned while the other believes that its message only obligates the physical descendants of those who originally witnessed.

Furthermore; I pointed out to you that Jesus attempts to justify himself according to the laws and regulations of an existing system. That existing system exalts the miracles of Moses and the Sinai experience above all other miracles and never looks to the “explosion” of a movement as evidence for its veracity. You can disagree with the faith structure of Judaism as spelled out in the Bible, but you can’t do so and believe in Jesus. Because Jesus accepted the legitimacy of that system and he failed according to the world-view of the system that he acknowledged as valid and true. Judaism on the other hand does not attempt to justify itself according to the norms of any previous system.

Your accusation of intellectual dishonesty reminds me of Matthew 23.

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